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High school track: Herriman freshman Kaysha Love reinventing herself as track star

HERRIMAN — Gymnastics has been Kaysha Love’s passion the past eight years.

Just three weeks on the track though, and she appears to have found a new love.

The adrenaline of the gun popping and sprinting toward the finish line is just as satisfying as sticking a bars dismount or conquering a new skill on the beam, but without the pain.

The Herriman freshman still loves gymnastics, and she hasn’t officially called it quits. However, at 5-foot-7 — not surprising with parents who both played college basketball — she’s outgrowing the sport she loves. Plus, the injuries are starting to mount, and Love realizes her road to a college education might not be paved with balance beams anymore.

“I love the sport, I love my teammates, but it’s just killing my body,” said Love, who suffered a broken elbow and toe in the same year.

Her new path to being a collegiate athlete might just be on the track.

That's because Love is fast. Very, very fast.

She’s fast enough that the state record in the 100 meters might fall this year. She’s fast enough that at age 15 she’s capable of reinventing herself as an athlete in pursuit of being a different kind of NCAA champion.

“With her, the state record is going to happen,” said Herriman coach Jake Garlick. “I think for her, bigger things are in mind. I think she wants to be a national competitor. She has the possibility to do so.”

Garlick knows as well as anyone what it takes to get there. A star athlete at West Jordan High School, Garlick went on to run for the University of Oregon in the early ’90s. He believes Love has the potential to follow in those college footsteps.

In her first-ever high school meet at Herriman High School two weeks ago, Love ran the 100 meters in a time of 12.01. It was just .16 behind the state record set by Brighton’s Aubrie Hale in 2010.

Last Saturday, she ran a 12.18 at the UHSTCA Invitational at Copper Hills with a strong head wind, and also posted a strong time in the 200 and high jump.

“She has tremendous physical God-given ability, and on top of that, she’s got the heart. She’s got work ethic, she’s been training since she’s 7 years old,” said Garlick. “We’ve had kids before with tremendous amount of talent, but they just didn’t have the work ethic. It’s sometimes rare to get the kids that have all those qualities put together.”

Love’s mother, Stephanie Love, always knew her daughter was destined for success athletically. She recalls being at a public hot tub once when her daughter was just 4, and people inquiring if she took her to the gym.

“She’s always been the fastest and strongest kid,” said Stephanie Love.

When she enrolled Kaysha in gymnastics at age 7, she immediately started to excel. It wasn’t long until the youngster started to dream about a bright future in gymnastics. Over the past couple of years, though, those dreams have started to fade.

Though still an accomplished level 10 gymnast, she always seems to be in pain. At 5-foot-7, and nearly 140 pounds, dismounts off the bars or double backs on the floor are starting to take a major toll on Love’s knees.

Recognizing her daughter’s constant pain, Stephanie Love approached Kaysha a few months ago and asked if she had ever considered running track.

Love got her first exposure to track in the summer before seventh grade when she participated in a country recreation track program run by Garlick. She ran a sub-13-second 100 meters back then, and Garlick knew immediately she was something special. He also knew Love was an accomplished gymnast, and never really expected to see her run at the high school level.

Some prodding by her mother convinced Love to give track a try, even if it was just the high jump. Love, however, feared running would aggravate her knees as much as gymnastics. Surprisingly it hasn’t, and Love is ecstatic with her new endeavor.

“Teammates are a big thing for me, and I love having them with me at school, track and practice, and it makes the hard practices easier to get through,” said Love, who’s a student at Fort Herriman Middle School.

Love admits the 12.01 she ran two weeks ago felt great, but she said improving on that time and breaking the state record isn’t what drives her.

“My drive is the adrenaline, and the time is just a bonus,” said Love, who also maintains a 4.0 GPA.

This weekend, Love should be heading to Arizona to participate in a regional gymnastics meet with hopes of qualifying for nationals. Injuries, however, have put her so far behind her peers this season, she’s decided to skip regionals and instead run with her Herriman track teammates at the Grizzly Invitational in Logan.

With another week of practice working on technique and explosive starts out of the blocks, all eyes will be on Love again this weekend as she races to the 100-meter finish line.